For many reasons, families are apart – in physical space, but that doesn’t mean the relationship has to suffer! Whether your partner is deployed to a country many time zones away, or you are in your final years of medical school a continent away, you CAN keep your relationship healthy in your long distance relationship. There are a few general things you can each do to better manage the distance between you:
Get competent on the latest technology –
• laptop computers,
• VoIP (Voice over Internet Phone),
• web cam,
• the various messenger services (ICQ, MSN, Yahoo, AOL, etc.),
• digital photography and uploading photographs,
• and even simple things such as knowing the time zone differences.
Believe me, it really bites when you THINK you are calling at 7 am, when he is supposed to get to work, and it is really 1 am! You might think ‘he doesn’t even care about me, or he would answer the phone!” when really, he is sleeping soundly in his hotel, and doesn’t hear the even hear the phone.
Now, for the 20 Top Tips I promised you. One suggestion is do NOT try to surprise your long distance love with every one of the 20 Top Tips in the first week! (It might scare them.)
Before You Go
1. Spend some time together just talking over your expectations (i.e., when you will talk, how often you will email each other, when you expect to be back together, etc.) This will keep you both on the same page, and not wondering about the essentials.
2. Plan a special reunion day for when you are back in each other’s arms. Go online together and find a perfect hideaway nearby to celebrate your ‘re-union’. Then, while apart, you can go online together and dream of romantic destinations.
As “D” (Departure) Day Approaches
3. Be sure to organize things like insurance papers, phone call lists, email addresses, etc. for each of you, so that the worry about being out of touch is reduced. Get two identical little day planner books, and record all essential information in each one.
4. See if you can get a sitter for the children and spend an entire day and evening just being lovers. Talk about your goals together, as adults and as parents. Enjoy a romantic dinner out, and then a romantic evening ‘in’.
5. Have a Going Away party. Invite friends and family to spend an afternoon with your family, and to say their goodbyes, share their spirits, and share their food. Make it a potluck, so you don’t have to work too hard, and can enjoy the time.
6. Make sure that the children have special one-on-one time with the departing parent. Also, make sure the children know how loved they are, and that the ‘bye bye’ parent can’t wait to be home again with them.
Going, Going, Gone
7. Tuck a few love notes and pictures of the family in his or her suitcase. A child’s crayon drawing may end up on the footlocker or on the hotel mirror, so include some double sided tape, for good measure.
8. For the departing person, secretly hide love notes where the stay at home person will be sure to find them after you leave. Inside cereal boxes, the freezer, rolled into a roll of toilet paper, in the middle of the stack of dishes, anywhere you know they will be found!
9. If you have to leave children – buy an inexpensive tape recorder and record a favorite nighttime story for them. Break it into sections; so that each night you are gone, they can hear your voice. If you sing to your children, sing on the tape. Funny songs, lullabies, whatever you like to share with the children.
10. While you are at it, tape memory keeper messages to your lover. A simple message, “Honey, I miss you so much and can’t wait to be back in your arms!” to a memory you two share, “Sweetheart, remember when we went to the beach last fall and roasted marshmallows? Well, I will bring the marshmallows, you bring the sticks! I love you!” Basically, you want to say anything that comes to your mind, and let them know you are nuts about them.
The Days Go So Slowly
Ok, this is where you have to get really creative! The time you have to spend apart can go much faster if you keep as much ‘real life’ contact as possible. With internet and computer web cams, not to mention, instant messengering and voice telephony via internet, you should be able to make a dent in the long days between togetherness.
11. Plan to chat via Internet Video Conferencing as often as possible. Get everyone involved, children, parents, siblings, whoever, but sometimes, make a special time for just you two to share. Show him your new haircut. Show her your new tattoo. (Make sure the name on your tattoo is HER name!)
12. Send each other e-cards often. E-cards from sources such as Blue Mountain and Kinky Cards are cute, funny and show you are thinking about your lover. E-cards are quick to send, and there are so many choices, including flash animation and musical cards. E-cards can be a great way to shorten the long in long distance relationships.
13. Email funny jokes and hilarious videos. Short little “thinking of you’ things that take just a minute, but bring smiles to their faces.
14. Now is the time to use your digital camera! Take photos of the kids, the dog, his side of the bed, your new car (you might want to tell him about buying the car before sending a photo of it). Use the camera to take photos of little Johnny’s piano recital, or little Susie’s winning hockey game. You can make your long distance relationship a little less daunting.
15. Go online birthday shopping together, for yourselves or for kids and family. Check out Toys R Us, KayBee Toys, or heck, sneak into Neiman-Marcus and dream together about that wonderful $55,000 swimming pool. If mommy can help daddy pick out a Christmas present, it makes the long distance seem a little bit closer, for everyone.
16. Build a family website together. Pictures, notes, journals, even calendars can be easily put online, and that way, the ‘away’ partner will have access to the daily happenings at home.
17. Get a scanner. They are inexpensive and easy to use. You can scan reports cards, awards and even the local newspaper clippings about thing they are interested in, and email the scans as easy as a photograph.
Coming Home, Finally!
18. Cross off the days on your online website calendar, and keep sending love notes and little email messages. Pay special attention to the schedule, so that when he or she DOES get home, have plenty of together time to re-adjust. You can share your excitement of the upcoming end of the long distance relationship!
19. A few days before “A” (Arrival) Day, spruce up the house, finish any undone chores, wash the car, mow the lawn, etc. You don’t want to spend your first days together having to schlep out to the grocery store in order to eat some decent food. Also, plan ahead for some quiet time for you, as a couple, and as a family. Often, a period of readjustment to family life is a tough period, so keep it low key and loving.
20. Set a reunion time for the extended family, but make it for a few days, at least, after the away partner gets home and settled. During the first days home, try not to have medical and dental appointments or extensive ‘honey-do’ lists of things around the house for them to do. Just relax and enjoy each other!
Long Distance Relationships can take their toll on everyone, but by planning for, and following through on your plan, letting everyone know how much they mean to each other, you can make your long distance relationship more manageable and better for every member of the family, and keep your love alive and thriving, no matter what the distance. I hope the 20 Top Tups for Maintaining a Healthy Long Distance Relationship helps you to keep your family happy and healthy.